LINGUIST List 6.1042

Wed Aug 2 1995

Qs: Kerek, V-initial words

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <dseelyemunix.emich.edu>


Directory

  1. OleStig Andersen, Query: V-initial words and initial C loss
  2. "Larry Trask", Query: V-initial words and initial C loss

Message 1: Query: V-initial words and initial C loss

Date: 02 Aug 1995 22:01:23 GMT
From: OleStig Andersen <OSAinform-bbs.dk>
Subject: Query: V-initial words and initial C loss

Is Kerek dead?

At a UN conference in Copenhagen June 26. - 28. the Russian delegate, Evdokia
Gayer, in a side remark mentioned that the Eastsibirian language Kerek has
died, implying, I take it, that the last native speaker recently died.
Can anybody out there confirm or reject this?
I would appreciate any (references to) information about the situation of
Kerek (and the other Eastsiberian languages, Chukchee, Koryak, Alyutor,
Kamchadal, Yukaghir, Gilyak, Ket and Siberian Yupik as well).

Thank you

Ole Stig Andersen
Nyvej 16 B, 1851 Frederiksberg C, Denmark
tel +45 33 25 34 94
fax +45 33 25 16 52
e-mail osainform-bbs.dk

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Message 2: Query: V-initial words and initial C loss

Date: Wed, 02 Aug 1995 11:31:38 Query: V-initial words and initial C loss
From: "Larry Trask" <larrytcogs.susx.ac.uk>
Subject: Query: V-initial words and initial C loss

I have two related questions.

First, does anybody know of any languages in which an exceptionally
high proportion (say, 40% or more) of lexical items begin with
vowels? If so, is anything known of the historical reasons for this
state of affairs? I am, of course, aware of the initial-dropping
languages of Australia, in which word-initial consonants (or
syllables) have been systematically lost, but I don't know of any
other languages with exceedingly frequent initial vowels.

Second, does anybody know of any languages in which word-initial
voiceless plosives have been systematically lost, particularly
languages in which voiceless plosives were generally unaffected in
other positions?

My reason for asking is the following. Basque is a language with
very frequent vowel-initial lexical items (probably 50% in native
words of any antiquity). It is known that Basque lacked word-initial
voiceless plosives 2000 years ago. Forty years ago Andre' Martinet
proposed that, in a still earlier stage of the language, initial
voiceless plosives were systematically lenited to fricatives, then to
[h], and finally to zero. I am therefore looking for possible
parallels for such a development and for possible alternative
suggestions for the frequency of initial vowels in Basque.

All information gratefully received; if anything turns up, I'll post
a summary.

Larry Trask
COGS
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH
England

larrytcogs.susx.ac.uk
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